EXCLUSIVE: Christian Bale is reluctantly getting out of the driver’s seat on Michael Mann’s long-gestating Enzo Ferrari. The shape-shifting actor is stepping aside after health concerns over the weight gain necessary to play the iconic carmaker. Bale, who has yo-yo’d throughout his career between extreme weight loss and gain – compare his emaciated turn in The Machinist to his button-busting fatso in American Hustle – appears to have finally bitten off more than even he could chew.

The start date of spring this year was simply too soon for the Big Short actor to get that out of shape again. Mann is moving fast to re-cast the plum role and is currently speaking to some heavyweight actors.

While Bale’s exit is a blow, the project remains very much on track, with Paramount distributing in most territories. The combination of Mann, subject matter and role should lend itself to finding another top actor shortly. Vendian Entertainment and Bliss Media are financing the project, with plans to shoot this summer in Italy. Bliss Media China will distribute Enzo Ferrari in China.

The story takes place in one pivotal year, 1957. It is the highly personal account of Ferrari faced with a convergence of dilemmas at a critical time. The script by Troy Kennedy-Martin (The Italian Job and Edge Of Darkness) was revised by David Rayfiel (The Firm) and Mann. It’s based on the Brock Yates book Enzo Ferrari, The Man, The Cars, The Races. Mann’s reps at CAA arranged financing for the film and brokered the distribution deals. Mann has been working on Enzo Ferrari for 15 years, initially shaping it with the late Sydney Pollack.